Why a robust talent strategy is so important during the Covid-19 era

Gillian Campbell, Chief People Officer – Webhelp UK Region, discusses what makes an effective talent strategy, the core steps in achieving this and why, during the pandemic, building the right resources and being willing to evolve rapidly has become so fundamental.

Gillian Campbell Talent blog

At Webhelp we work hard to attract, identify, develop, engage, retain and deploy talented and passionate people, and have designed a robust strategy to help us do this.

I believe that an effective talent strategy must have the company’s mission at its core. It must be completely aligned with the business strategy. Together, we strive to put our people first while making sure our clients remain at the heart of everything we do.

You need to have the right structures in place for employee engagement, rewards and development. Companies must also define and deliver good leadership at every level.

A diversity and inclusion programme is an essential part of any effective talent strategy today. Diverse companies and leadership teams have been found to be more successful. For example, recent research suggests that listed firms with at least one in three female executives have a profit margin over 10 times greater.

Identifying internal talent that can move up within the business is just as important to your wider strategy as attracting new employees. Creating dedicated initiatives for key groups within the company to achieve this goal is vital — it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.

At Webhelp, we have a Deputy Team Leader programme that develops a pipeline of Webhelp leaders of the future, with a structured academic learning path including on the job experience and an external accreditation. This ensures that employees can play an active role in developing their career and accessing a valuable network.

But the best talent strategies are always evolving, organisations have been focused on becoming more agile in recent years and that process has been accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital solutions should now be at the forefront of business strategy and, for talent management, investment in online learning and development systems will be a crucial in future proofing the workforce. Online tools like Office 365, SharePoint, Teams, Mural, Miro, Parabol, and Google Docs are helping everyone to work more efficiently, and have been invaluable during the shift to working from home. They engage, empower and assist in the easy execution of tasks.

And, it is also becoming clear that emotional connections in business matter so much more now. Companies will build stronger, more meaningful relationships with customers if they have that connection with their own people. Talent strategies have shifted in this direction, to put structures and benefits in place that respond to the needs of employees today. You have to start by fine-tuning the recruitment process to bring the most intelligent and empathetic talent into the business.

We’ve implemented a learning framework that ensures that we are developing our people and our future talent from their first day on the job and throughout their journey at Webhelp. Our learning framework identifies ‘core’ learning, ‘in-life’ development and talent development.

This new level of maturity in the learning framework for talent development programmes, has meant that everyone can see the benefits. Not only in terms of talent development but also the career paths we have put in place for our people.

It’s also vital to create a structured feedback forum, to create understanding of employee needs and expectations. It is equally important to acknowledge commitment, to reward and to recognise hard work and dedication, and to look at both personal and professional development.

As such, our WebPATHS career progression programme recognises that everyone’s ambitions are different. Some people want to learn new skills, while others need freedom to spend more time on their caring responsibilities, or to pursue studies. Providing exciting and tailored career paths with credible development opportunities means we can retain talent for longer.

The primary objective for most companies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been trying to maintain continuity. For Webhelp, that was achieved by enabling 8,000 colleagues to work from home effectively – and keeping everyone fully engaged and supported. We have also virtually onboarded over 500 new advisors for home-working roles.

We have re-trained our people to work on the most urgent client situations. We provided access to real-time virtual coaching, training, tools and support to help them succeed in their roles during the crisis. In fact 20,000 hours of training were delivered over just eight weeks.

We also set up social learning groups, so that our team leaders could share lessons and ideas on engaging teams in a virtual world. This enabled our management development consultants to connect with our team managers and ensure that the development and support package was fit for purpose during the transition to working from home, reaching 650 managers across the globe with a personal and tailored learning experience.

We recognised the danger of overlooking employee career goals and aspirations during this time. We remain committed to ensuring that our people can continue to grow and develop and are rewarded for the commitment they’ve shown during the crisis.

Companies have to become more adaptable. Whether work is delivered at home or in the office is becoming less relevant. We’re seeing more flexibility in terms of when and how work is delivered, with greater scope to shift work between geographies and people, and adapt to external changes.

As businesses become more flexible, a much healthier focus on outcomes will emerge. This must be underpinned by data-driven performance management as colleagues at all levels increasingly understand the critical relationship between behaviours, outputs and outcomes.

As the significance of health, wellbeing and safety intensifies, a culture of responsibility towards one another has emerged. This brings shifts in the balance of trust and control. Businesses need to carefully consider how they can help create the optimal home-working setup and ensure employee wellbeing in the short and long term.

Organisations must act now to put these ideas into practice, as even before the pandemic, an effective talent strategy was central to a company’s success, but now having the right one in place will be absolutely fundamental to survival.


WFH – Best practices of effectively managing a team – Part 2

One of the greatest misconceptions about managing a remote team is that it exclusively needs a new set of skills. However, managers must work harder to foster a positive team dynamic to ensure remote workers feel part and parcel of the whole group as they would in the office. It requires a constant proactive approach. And below are additional best practices to ensure that you stay in sync with your remote working team.

Remember their career paths
It's common for a team manager to focus on the main agenda or project at a given time often forgetting that the team members have their career goals. Despite them being virtual, they too have goals and aspirations. It's important to ensure they make progression in their careers for growth and self-development to avoid frustration and confusion. Having regular one to one conversation brings you to understanding their individual career development aspirations.

Balance schedule inconveniences
With regards to virtual teams that work globally, be flexible in understanding that your team members operate on different environments with change in time zones. It's thus your responsibility to entrust your team with freedom and flexibility to get their work done on the schedule that helps them to be more productive rather than being rigid on the assigned time schedule. They should however keep it consistent.

Remote friendly whiteboarding
As a manager, it is your duty to create a simulation of what other office going employees typically use to share documents or during brainstorming sessions. Tools like Teams, Mural, Miro, Parabol, Google Docs are optimal for remote teams. They engage, empower and assists in the easy execution of tasks within the teams. These online tools enhance collaboration and also provide creative spaces for the remote teams to exchange ideas.

Meet in person when possible
As a way of strengthening the bond within your team members, it's admissible to meet occasionally if the work setting isn’t fully remote. This helps in nurturing a sense of belonging as well as a way of creating a team feeling. The energy from these meetings is always high and provides an opportunity to have even further discussions around the vision, culture and the team’s future objectives.

Owing to the current obligatory social distancing measures resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies have resulted to embrace virtual working and are benefiting from these best practices to effectively manage their remote teams. At Webhelp we pride ourselves in providing professional, adequate and timely services by using our remarkable remote working culture integrated in our business model right from our company’s founding.


An inclusive approach to recruitment: A South African Perspective.

South Africa provides a vibrant, enthusiastic and highly skilled base for many of Webhelp’s clients who chose offshoring to deliver their customer service. Here Kevin D’Allende, recruitment manager for the region, shares our commitment to provide opportunity for the youth of South Africa, and their pathway to employment, in their customer experience provider careers.

South Africa, behind India, is the second most popular global destination for offshoring, and as a location it is very attractive prospect for clients, due to our English language skills, time-zone compatibility with Europe, an advanced telecommunications industry, Government support for the industry and most importantly, reliable committed and cost effective workforce.

However, according to the World Bank, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the World with unemployment teetering on 30%. Given this startling fact, it is understandable that the youth in the country may become disillusioned about the prospect of finding gainful employment and becoming economically active in society.

But encouragingly, there is growing recognition across the customer experience management sector, that despite this dire situation opportunities exist to play a more meaningful role to create positive impact. At Webhelp, we have a core commitment to make businesses more human and are a people-first organisation, so creating these opportunities to nurture youth potential is a long-standing and important priority for our organisation.

For me, this starts with identifying and attracting the best human talent by placing people at the centre, Webhelp can harness this untapped skill base and showcase to the rest of the world the innate ability of South African youth to excel in a customer service environment.

As the South African Youth make their way along the pathway to employment, the challenge is to keep these enquiring minds fully engaged and help them bring out their best.

As a result, we must make sure that their experiences in the pre-employment stage reflect how exciting and enthusing their professional journey at Webhelp can be.

Identifying, attracting and retaining the right new talent for Webhelp, and our clients can be a challenge which involves various strategies.

Firstly, we use our existing people (always our best advertisement!) to engage and educate our new recruits. Our brand ambassadors live and display the company values so passionately that others are drawn to the organisation.

We strive to create working communities that reflect the backgrounds and cultural touchpoints of our people, as everyone likes to work in a space that is more like them!

This dovetails with our organisational values too, and we are involved in various community initiatives like the Columba Leadership Programme, which aims to ensure that hundreds of thousands of young people realise their potential and recognize their ability to lead change in their own lives, their schools and communities.

This approach allows Webhelp an opportunity to actively participate in moulding and nurturing the future business leaders of the country. This ambition continues inside our organisation, with opportunities like the Deputy Team Leader Programme and Momentum training for middle managers.

We recognise that everyone has a unique set of financial and social circumstances that may have impacted their access to academic studies prior to their recruitment, so to help our people to realise their potential Webhelp makes Learnerships available that culminate in a formal qualification on completion.

These colleagues often start out as Customer Services Advisors at entry level but through the learnership and middle management training modules, they can become part of the team leader core whilst others venture into support roles like trainers and quality analysts.

Alongside this, close partnerships and strategic alliances with various external training providers are important to ensure that Webhelp is able to access talent that really have a yearning for learning, and will embrace our working culture. These prime candidates form a sourcing pool for Webhelp and their applications are fast tracked into the business; often as Technical Help Desk Advisors.

Finally, and something that is very close to our hearts at Webhelp, we support Impact Sourcing, via organisations like Harambee, to provide career development opportunities to people who otherwise have limited prospects for formal employment.

We work hard to remove the barriers to employment and bolster an inclusive approach to recruitment.

Acknowledging that the recruitment process can be a very daunting space for a first-time work seeker, this process allows for changes to be made to ensure the candidate feels comfortable to offer their best.

This atmosphere of transparency, involvement (inclusion) and mutual respect allows for a more relaxed and rewarding engagement. Positive feedback, whether the candidate is successful or not, becomes important, as we want to support everyone during their interaction with Webhelp.

At Webhelp we believe that recruitment should be ethical, transparent, fair and accessible and that the concept that ‘Our people make Webhelp’ is something that we live by every-day. Throughout our operation, its remains a priority for us to improve the experience of all our employees - at all stages of their career journey with us.

Look out for further blogs, sharing more of our people strategy, in the coming weeks.

 

 


WFH Best Practices – How to effectively manage a remote team

Currently most of us can relate to working remotely from different locations owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. A recent survey revealed that 76% of the Global Workforce prefer to continue working from home post Covid-19 (Source: globalworkplaceanalytics.com). Apart from escaping a noisy office, there are significant benefits gained from WFH such as an increase in productivity on one hand, and a decrease in absenteeism on the other.

And because the WFH model is the new normal, leaders need to remotely support their teams to ensure business continuity during this unprecedented situation. So let’s have a look at some of the best practices that have been proven to enable a remote team successfully achieve its objective under the leadership of a team manager.

Up-to-date equipment
Your team’s working culture flourishes when everything is under one roof. Ensure that the team members have the amenities needed to get their work done. This includes but not limited to working laptop machines and remote team management software in order to plan projects as well as people, mobile devices or a high-speed internet. As a team manager it is your responsibility to make sure that the team you are working with is promptly supplied with this equipment and timely replacements are done on the faulty ones.

Regular communication
This goes without saying. It is normal for your team to feel lonely and isolated because they are not in an office environment. It's therefore important to have a regular one on one every so often allowing room for small talk when possible. A good rapport is key in creating a bond between team members and their manager. From time to time find out how they are doing and also how their families are doing to show that you not only care about their work delivery but also their lives outside work.

Video conferencing
Thanks to technology advancement, we are now able to interact and connect better through electronic mediums such as Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet etc. It is thus important to find the right collaboration tool that can be used with the whole staff. By helping to shorten the gap between the employer and employee, video conferencing is a powerful tool that fosters the connection and team spirit by enabling real-time, face to face communication. Researchers show that half of human communication is nonverbal. As team manager, your role is to ensure effective communication which will establish a connection with your members. Video conferencing helps to notice your team’s reaction to different situations in order to also understand the unspoken.

Set expectations
Conveying expectations early clearly helps in keeping your team members focused in working towards the same goal. Help them in figuring out what they need to prioritize by creating realistic expectations for their work. This sets up both you and the team for success as it helps in precisely stating both the tasks and the reasons behind them as a measure of achievement. Your expectation for your virtual team can be their, working hours, scope of work and the deadlines and deliverables for each task or project.

Watch out for part two...


Discover Webhelp's Work Abroad Program

International mobility means opportunities even in the most challenging of times

As a people-first company, not only do we strive to enjoy every day but also listen to our colleagues as to how they wish to live their careers. Relocating to a new country to start an international career is always a great challenge, especially during a global crisis.
At Webhelp, driving innovation is part of our DNA. That is why we have set out to make international mobility still a possible, safe and enjoyable experience! We have developed our Work Abroad program with you in mind – our colleagues who want to explore new cultures and career opportunities as well as future Webhelpers who dream of a fresh start.
The Work Abroad program is part of our new Website. So, let’s dive in the online features and functionalities that will bring you closer to your dream lifestyle.

Find out what country you match with

Meet our interactive Job Matcher! The fun quiz is the first thing you will see when you land on our Work Abroad page. Your international journey starts by answering 3 simple questions. We use a quick algorithm that will match you with the country most suited to your personal preferences and professional goals. You might have more than one soulmate country! So, have fun and redo the quiz as many times as you wish.

Find out what it is like to work in your country of choice

Now you have an idea of where you would like to live your next 12 to 24 months or maybe your entire life. So, let’s take a quick journey into that dream destination!
As game-changers, we conducted a survey with people who work with us as well as former colleagues and even employees from other companies. Why? To get a real feeling of what it is like to work in the country you would like to call home.
The destination section refers mainly to the overall employee sentiment within a certain region. However, this is where you will see open positions available at Webhelp in your country of choice. Likewise, from this section you can select the city (site) where we operate.
We also gathered data from various reliable sources, and we recommend a monthly budget based on your salary at Webhelp in relation to the cost of living in your country of choice. This way, you can better plan for fun activities and common necessities.

Dare the adventure in your favourite city!

Getting the low-down on a country is great. But you will mostly live in a city while working abroad. To provide you with accurate and relevant information, we worked closely with expats living in the cities where we operate.
Each piece of content was written, edited and revised by multiple members of our local creative and HR teams, with the help and input of our expat Advisors.
This is where we also advertise our international open positions for our sites. So, when an available job feels like a match, apply and we will get in touch with you within a few days, if not hours.

Say hi to your new lifestyle

We strive to offer you a realistic glimpse of what to expect while working abroad at Webhelp. To create this piece of content, we interviewed dozens of our expat colleagues. So, you will get a feeling of the country through their eyes and experiences.
Our film crew also went the extra mile. Literally! They flew to our sites to capture the city vibe and our office culture. Follow our Webhelpers in their quest to show you authentic experiences and some impressive vistas of their second home! For example, check out how Denisz from Ukraine works and lives in Barcelona.

When in doubt, contact our friendly ambassadors

But what if you are still undecided about your chosen destination? Our colleagues from around the world will be happy to answer all your questions related to cost of living, relocation assistance, open positions and many more.
We have also taken a unique approach with our FAQ section. Since we put our people at the heart, we have divided our frequently asked questions in 3 parts: Your Life, Your Career and Your Adventure. Reading through the answers will feel personal, human-orientated and transparent.

Stay tuned for Meet Webhelpers

We believe in an engaging work culture. And our Webhelpers are the best ambassadors to reinforce our values. Coming soon is our new blog section featuring ‘the person behind the job’. You will find out what it is like to start and advance your career with us, how to stay resilient when you fail or how to succeed when you struggle. All these from a personal point of view of our Webhelpers!

For the past 20 years, we have thrived in challenging circumstances and strived to help our people achieve their goals. Despite the current pandemic, we know that international mobility is crucial to business growth and employee satisfaction. We encourage you to explore our opportunities abroad and dream further than ever before!


Meet our Game Changers : Jay Fell

 

Meet our Game Changers : Jay Fell Global Account Manager, UK.

"Everything is possible if you have the drive, determination and resilience!"

 

Parallel to his studies in Applied Psychology at the John Moores University in Liverpool, Jay was employed as a Customer Service Advisor at 02, a leading telecommunications company in UK. During his time there, his agility and proactivity led to a rapid development of his career. He was promoted to Platinum Account Manager and then to Platinum Development Manager nine months later. In 2012, he successfully graduated with a master’s degree in Occupational Psychology at the same university and went on to take the position of Take To Market Change Delivery Consultant before joining Webhelp. In our latest success story, Jay will tell us more about his career path with us.

So when did you join Webhelp Jay, and how has your career developed since then?

I joined Webhelp in September 2013. And back then, my intention was to stay in the outsourcing world for only one year and then go back to working in house. So far, it has been a fantastic journey where I have learned lots of new skills, meet new people and interacted with different cultures!I started as a Project Manager working exclusively on a telecommunications project for one of our long-standing clients. During this time, I delivered some big and exciting projects such as the operational readiness of a new billing system for our client’s post-pay customers and the transition of the telecommunications services to South Africa. I then moved to a central function role as a Global Change Manager and worked with other telecommunications projects for different clients. I then received the opportunity to deliver Webhelp’s first Global account with a leading low-cost airline.After successfully transitioning our client to Webhelp, I took the role as International Partnership Delivery Manager before moving into the Bid Manager role in 2018. In 2019 I was part of the team who worked on a big project to secure a deal with a leading sports and apparel company. I transitioned our client from their previous provider to Webhelp, before taking on the role as the Global Account Manager.

And what’s your current position all about?

As a Global Account Manager, my role involves working with our partner and operational teams across five sites and a shared service center on a day to day basis, to ensure that we are delivering excellence to our client’s customers. Parallel to his studies in Applied Psychology at the John Moores University in Liverpool, Jay was employed as a Customer Service Advisor at 02, a leading telecommunications company in UK. During his time there, his agility and proactivity led to a rapid development of his career. He was promoted to Platinum Account Manager and then to Platinum Development Manager nine months later. In 2012, he successfully graduated with a master’s degree in Occupational Psychology at the same university and went on to take the position of Take To Market Change Delivery Consultant before joining Webhelp. In our latest success story, Jay will tell us more about his career path with us.The other key part to my role is working with internal teams to develop our roadmap of how we can deliver outstanding customer experiences for our partner and their customers. Which project has been your highlight so far?In my time at Webhelp, I have had so many experiences and highlights to cherry pick just one however, some fond memories include my first trip to Rabat and setting up a new multilingual hub in Lisbon. (Smiles)

Which character trait helped you to advance your career?

I would say three things. The drive, determination and resilience to achieve!Which advice would you give people who want to pursue the same career?The biggest lesson I have learnt is to have the drive and determination and not to compare yourself with others. Be confident in the skills and expertise you have to offer. Don’t worry about others, focus on yourself and be the best version of yourself, in and outside of work!

And last but not least, how do you spend your free time outside of work?

I have three dogs, a Husky, Dalmatian and Labrador and they take a lot of my free time (smiles). Reading non-fiction books and also watching good movies on Netflix are my favorites too!Thanks a lot Jay for your time and the nice interview. All the best in your career!

Evelyn Kamau


Webhelp SA during the COVID crisis: Protecting our people

South Africa has experienced a unique set of challenges during the COVID-19 crisis. The impact has been felt across our communities, our employees and their families. As the country takes its first steps out of lockdown, we asked Cathy Kalamaras, People Director for South Africa, some tough questions on how Webhelp’s people have responded and what the future holds.

As a People Director, what have been (and are) the main challenges for Webhelp South Africa in responding to COVID-19?

Being a people first company really defines Webhelp South Africa, so our immediate concern was putting our people’s health, safety and well-being first, whilst executing the government’s guidelines to a tee.

Communication & engagement

Initially, communication and engagement was a challenge for us, and we had to vary our channels to reach all our employees; those working from home (WFH), those not working at all and those working onsite on essential services. Instant messaging proved to be an effective medium for reaching a large audience quickly and effectively.

A comprehensive communication strategy was critical to keeping our colleagues safe (many of whom had never experienced WFH), and there was a need for awareness in people’s families and home communities, so campaigns were translated into several languages.

Moving at pace, we urgently needed to make sure our people understood the real practicalities and challenges around WFH. These included; how to separate working life in a home/family environment, good dietary habits and sleep patterns (very important for shift workers), establishing the right work-life balance and how to switch off at the end of a shift.

We also delivered education and support on finance, resilience, domestic & gender-based violence, mental health and wellbeing.

Government guidelines, adoption, education and policies

Keenly monitoring and reacting to changing government directives was (and still is) absolutely critical, and (alongside a collaborative approach with all functional departments) was also key to the execution of changing remuneration models; as was introducing clear and updated policies to cover remote location, home and onsite working.

Additionally, as a third party partner delivers a medical aid and employee assistance programme, they had to be quickly brought in line with the WFH solution, both informing and assisting with virtual counselling and support.

Finally, a leadership training and education initiative was rolled out, covering regulatory changes and best practice for remote management, new mind-sets for WFH, holding remote team and one on one meetings and the importance of monitoring team health and well-being.

How has the workforce transformed under this ‘new normal’ and how have these changes affected our advisors?

Understandably, there was a universal period of shock and adjustment, but our people have faced individual challenges, like social distancing and maintaining both personal and working relationships, working from home with a lack of childcare and adaptation on site/remote locations to rigorous safety protocols. However, supported by strong communication, our people have adapted well to the ‘new normal’.

We learned that, as changing safety protocols can be daunting, messages needed to be clear and repeated, until we were absolutely sure they had landed and were being enacted.

This helped establish a level of clarity and trust, to remove uncertainty – which was key in reaching our people and creating grass-roots behavioural change.

What surprised and impressed you most about the response from our people during this time?

  1. Their incredible resilience and positivity in the face of crisis.
    Feedback has been that, whilst this was difficult at first, the vast majority of our people continue to be enthusiastic and committed to their employment, and thankful that their economic security has been maintained. They have been undaunted by the changes, and for some the switch to working from home often under challenging social conditions.
  1. Their willingness to go the extra mile, even under pressure
    Colleagues have been really adaptable and focused on getting the job done. Maintaining a can-do attitude and often putting in extra time on their own without being asked. They have maintained excellent commitment to performance for our clients both individually and in campaigns.
  2. The rise in team spirit and the feeling that we are in it together!
    To prevent some of our employees from becoming isolated, managers have driven a lot of fun activities to keep motivation and engagement high. Our people have really embraced this and have been working together to maintain morale, keep connected and raise team spirit under these difficult circumstances.

 

How do you foresee the way forwards for human resources in our industry in South Africa, and what advice would you like to share with other industry leaders?

We now have solid proof that homeworking, from a people perspective, is extremely viable in South Africa. I believe that, by building the right policies, practices and processes for working from home, we can revolutionise the solutions offered to future and current clients and colleagues.

As we move out of lockdown, the lessons learned here can help the industry in several ways:

The industry can now confidently access a broader, fresh talent pool.

Employment diversity could improve, as our capacity to hire disabled candidates has now increased, as could the use of different staffing models, with increased flexibly and a wider pool of wider remote working for provinces that are distanced from operational hubs (holiday/permanent basis).

Although some of our home workers will gradually return to office working, the focus on virtual and interactive engagement and learning models will increase and we are also likely to see a switch to more online performance management and coaching.

However, businesses must continue to transform and mature the employer and employee relationship, remain flexible on staffing, continue to minimise unnecessary red tape and be open to new possibilities.  This agility must extend to decision making and leadership. It’s important to upskill your people and create consensus, rather than let crisis management rest on the shoulders of the few.

Finally, I can’t stress this enough, don’t assume the message lands first time round, especially under crisis situations. The right communication is key, so really consider your audience and use the channels and ideas that work for them, not just the company.

Find out more about our stance on the COVID-19 crisis, and read CEO David Turner’s thoughts on how this challenge will create a radical shift in the future of homeworking.